The authorities seem to be somewhat ambivalent about the marketing of cannabidiol (CBD) products. On the one hand, the number and kinds of stores and websites selling various CBD products are growing exponentially. On the other hand, current FDA regulations generally prohibit the marketing and introduction into interstate commerce of some products.
In a recent statement addressing the conundrum, the FDA said “there is substantial public interest in marketing and accessing CBD in food, including dietary supplements,” which are currently prohibited, but that it’s “exploring potential pathways for various types of CBD products to be lawfully marketed…while maintaining the FDA’s rigorous public standards.” The agency has the authority to create exceptions to current regulations and heard from more than a hundred individuals and groups at a public hearing on the subject in May. It also received more than a thousand written comments.
However, there’s no ambivalence on the part of the FDA or FTC regarding unsubstantiated claims about the efficacy of CBD products in treating serious illnesses such as Alzheimer’s and cancer. The FDA and FTC have individually and collectively sent warning letters to at least 26 companies challenging such claims as:
- Products are highly effective at treating “the root cause of most major degenerative diseases, including arthritis, heart disease, fibromyalgia, cancer, asthma, and a wide range of autoimmune disorders.”
- CBD works like “magic” to relieve even the most agonizing pain.
- “CBD increased tumor cell death in leukemia and colon cancer.”
- Other serious illnesses that companies claimed their products could treat include autism, anorexia, PTSD, Parkinson’s, diabetes and AIDS. The FDA also challenged one company’s claims that its products could treat serious illnesses in pets.
In its recent statement, the FDA said that Epidiolex is the only approved drug with CBD as the active ingredient. It’s used for the treatment of two rare and severe forms of epilepsy.
The FDA’s primary jurisdiction in the matter is its role in approving new drugs. It says the kinds of claims made about the products would qualify them as drugs, but they haven’t been approved. The fact that they would be considered drugs also precludes marketing them as dietary supplements. And nutritional labels on some products suggest they’re foods, but foods containing CBD can’t be introduced into interstate commerce.
The FTC’s advertising regulations say that the kinds of claims being made about the products’ efficacy in treating serious illnesses have to be backed up by scientific evidence. It invited the companies to provide whatever evidence they might have, but it’s pretty clear the agency doesn’t believe they have sufficient data, if any at all. In particular, it questioned one company’s claims that it had participated in thousands of hours of research with Harvard researchers.
The BBB is not a medical or legal expert on the marketing and efficacy of CBD products. But as with any dietary supplement or other health care product, we recommend you consult with a health care professional before using one. Unintended effects could range from the product simply not working to it reacting negatively in conjunction with medical conditions you may have or other medications or treatments you may be taking.
Randy Hutchinson is the president of the Better Business Bureau of the Mid-South. Reach him at 901-757-8607.